May 2018 Communication from Session

May 8, 2018

Dear Members and Friends,

At the Annual Meeting of the Congregation in early March, we shared with you information about the church’s budget and the reality that deficit spending (using the church’s ‘savings’ or ‘reserves’) cannot continue indefinitely.  We included a plea for members and friends to prayerfully consider increasing their financial support to help us meet our budgeted goals for giving in 2018.

The 2018 annual giving/pledge campaign formally concluded on April 15, although we continue to appreciate and accept pledges all year.  While we are extremely grateful for the almost $100,000 in new and increased gifts and pledges we received after the Annual Meeting, we still fell $100,000 short of our pledging goal for 2018.  Because of this, Session has made the decision to make several adjustments to our spending for the remainder of 2018.  These budget cuts are painful, but Session has concluded that they are necessary.  Major changes that you will see include:

1)      Cancellation of this year’s all church retreat at Mt. Hermon, which was scheduled for October. We consider this a hiatus until we can prudently resume an off-site retreat.

2)      Eliminating both the print and digital bi-monthly newsletter, “Connections.”  We will rely even more on the weekly email ‘blast’ format as well as the Sunday bulletins to regularly share information with the congregation about upcoming services and other events, serving and educational opportunities, etc.  Calvary’s website will remain a resource for the congregation to learn about all that’s going on in our church.  Additionally, staff has been asked to determine whether bulletin costs can be reduced.  The number of posters created for programs and events may also be reduced.

3)      Eliminating coverage of the front desk/front door and telephone answering during the day on many Fridays.  While the building will not be closed, entry will require a visitor to telephone a designated staff person to come open the door.  The telephone service for those days will rely on automation, with voice prompts to direct incoming calls.

4)      The staff will consider whether it might be feasible to close the building or otherwise reduce some weekday evening usage to reduce staffing for access and building security.  This might include closing the building on one or more weekday evenings, which could require a shift in meeting days for some church and outside groups.

5)      Childcare will be eliminated for some special events.

6)      The Worship and Music Team was asked to find ways to reduce its budget by $12,000.  While worship is undoubtedly a central part of ‘being church,’ and our music ministry is beloved by virtually everyone at Calvary, because of the financial realities we face, we feel compelled to ask for belt tightening in this area as well.

7)      The Faith in Action Team has been asked to reduce its budget by about $58,000, which will have a direct impact on the mission partners we support financially, including our four partners in our work to help break cycles of poverty.  This reduction represents a 22% decrease from the 2018 budget and will disrupt many of our mission partners. The Faith in Action budget has been based in recent years on a previously agreed concept of tithing, meaning the budget was set at a minimum of 10% of the church’s operating budget, so this is a departure from that commitment.  The Faith in Action Team will determine which organizations to reduce or eliminate from our mission giving in order to reduce Calvary’s budget by the required amount, and we will share those decisions with you once they are made.

In addition to these more visible changes, some capital improvements in lighting and computer systems will be deferred, and the staff, along with the Finance Team, will look at ways for reducing other behind-the-scenes expenses, including our insurance costs.

Members of Session and staff spent a great deal of time wrestling with the trade-offs in reaching these decisions, which are painful.  Some ideas that were proposed—such as eliminating the Wednesday Playgroup, which serves over 100 children and their parents/grandparents/caregivers each week, or eliminating the Children’s Music program, which was just re-started and revitalized with the addition of a new, experienced, part-time director—were rejected for this year.  Some specific ideas for reductions in the Worship and Music budget and in the Faith in Action budget were discussed, but we decided to let those teams do the work of figuring out how to implement the necessary cuts.  No one left this meeting happy.

While the spending reductions  we are making  will enable us to bridge the gap caused by the shortfall in 2018 pledging and the increased costs we will incur due to the hiring of a Transitional Pastor, our 2018 financial plan had a budgeted cash deficit of $515,000.  This general level of deficit spending has been driven over the last 5 years by capital spending on stained glass windows and pastor housing, and by new and expanded programs and increased numbers of staff.  It is unsustainable going forward.  Session will hold a special meeting later this month to do some longer-term planning about eliminating the cash deficit.  We will set priorities that will enable the best recruiting process for a new Senior Pastor/Head of Staff while continuing to be good stewards of the many resources we have.  We are looking for ways to keep our congregation vibrant and thriving, through a combination of further program and expense reductions (which are likely to include some personnel reductions), creative ideas for encouraging increased giving by the congregation, and additional use of the Calvary Foundation assets for a specified time period.  As we engage in this important and difficult work, we also have in mind the headwinds that we and many churches face in the more secular society in which we find ourselves living.

We continually must ask the question:  What is God calling us to be and do in this place and at this time?  As Rev. Chinn said in his statement of faith, “Our ministry and mission is not about us; it is from the beginning and to the end of the age about Jesus.”  Please pray for and with us as we attempt to navigate as a congregation in ways faithful to Christ.

The Session

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